Authors: L. Ron Hubbard
Tags: #Education & Reference, #Words; Language & Grammar, #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Action & Adventure, #Sea Adventures, #Short Stories, #Single Author, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Thrillers, #Suspense, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Men's Adventure, #Thriller, #Single Authors, #Science Fiction, #Adventure
“Certainly, haven’t you heard?” said Folston. “Larson told me when he came in from the ship. This fine convict knocked Larson’s teeth down his throat and threw him down the gangway just because he found Larson packing in the cabin.”
“If I were you,” said Spar, stepping very close, “I would be very careful of what I said.”
“Oh, I shall, I shall,” said Folston in mock terror. “Pray don’t frighten me, dear convict.”
“Convict?” said Peg Mannering, groping along the rail, moving away from Spar.
“From French Guiana,” said Folston. “Perhaps the French would like to see him. I believe he is very valuable down there in the labor camps.”
!” said Peg Mannering, nervously.
Spar glared at them both. “Yes, Devil’s Island. Certainly. Why not? But right now, it so happens that you are on an American ship over which the French have no jurisdiction. My papers have never been revoked, I am still a master mariner—and I still command the
“This ship may be the property of Frederick Perry and you may be all the kings and queens of the Continent. But right now you’re passengers under my care.
“As for my right to be here, I’ve sailed these seas for years. I know them and they know me. And convict or no, the sea will let me pass. The sea isn’t waiting on judgment from spoiled, pampered fools.
“As for your right here, you haven’t any whatever. This sea is my sea, not yours. Look at it tonight. Swinging by and whipping at us, trying to drag us down. It’s angry, but not at me. It’s angry because you have no right here. It’s trying to reach up and take you and drag you down into its blackness and swallow you up forever.
“Now get below.”
Peg Mannering stared, afraid, at Spar and then looked down at the white-capped sea, whose waves looked like oily mountains topped with the teeth of spray.
“Get below,” said Spar.
Folston smiled. “Very pretty, convict. Very pretty. We go because we don’t exactly enjoy the stink of a prison camp. Come along, Peg.”
But Peg Mannering stayed where she was and shook her head. “No. I’m afraid I would rather stand here than watch Tom Perry.”
Folston shrugged. “There’s no accounting for tastes,” and disappeared down the hatch.
Spar turned his back on the girl and looked into the binnacle. The helmsman, who had heard Folston’s remarks, edged cautiously away. Spar gave him a scornful glance and went back to the wing.
Peg Mannering, slicker wrapped tightly about her slender figure, watched him. She had never seen a man like Captain Spar. He was so definite in his actions, so sure of himself now that he stood on a deck. She remembered how he had looked back in the drawing room of the Perry house.
He was handsome in his way. His eyes were odd, very light against the darkness of his face, and his skin showed the marks of fever, but something about the triangle of his eyes and mouth reassured her.
“It has been said,” murmured Peg Mannering, “that a wolf is more to be trusted than a snake, however charming.”
“Must I be a wolf?” said Spar.
“No, I’m just a convict. Didn’t you hear Folston? Who is that man?”
“He has great wealth, they say. He thinks he has enough to buy anything he wants.”
“And you say he’s wrong.”
“Yes. Gold tarnishes in his hands.”
Spar looked at her intently. “Just why are you going to marry Tom Perry?”
The direct shaft startled her. “That is out of my hands.”
“But not out of mine,” said Spar.
“What do you mean? You can’t do anything.”
“Oh, I know. I’m just a convict and I’ll probably end up back in French Guiana. Larson will squeal, the New York immigration men will hold me, and I’ll be shipped back. That’s what happens when you fight the law. But right now . . .”
“You mean . . .” she backed away from him. “You mean you’d kill him?”
“No, nothing so crude. Convict, yes, but not a fool. If Tom Perry was removed, Folston would still be there. Folston has his eye on you. I know it. I can feel it. And your destination is not in your hands. Things haven’t changed much since the slave markets of the
“You . . . take a great deal upon yourself.”
“And why not? What do I lose? I know where I’m headed. I may get out of it, and if I do, I have business back in Martinique. But while I still breathe clean air and while I still keep away from swamps, I can do a few things. It won’t make my lot any worse. I owe you a debt.”
“Owe . . .
“Yes. Before I saw you, I had nothing but death on my mind. You made me wake out of a five years’ sleep. Just by looking at you, that’s all. I owe you for that. Wolves can look at queens.”
Piqued, but not knowing why, Peg Mannering stepped back from him. “And queens can order wolves shot. Don’t forget that.”
“I suppose so, Miss Mannering. I hope for his sake that Tom Perry—or Folston—can shoot quite straight and quite well.”
He left her in the wing and went to the binnacle. Once more the helmsman drew away from him as though afraid, but Spar stood there, looking out through the spattered glass, watching the drive of rain across the decks.
In three hours, the blow began to pick up. They were well out into the Caribbean and received the full lash of the wind. The yacht was plunging her bows into the waves, and sometimes the bows stayed down for seconds at a time, shuddering. Then it would soar skyward again, rolling with a sick lurch and once more head down.
The deck was shifting under Spar’s widespread feet, but he held to nothing. He seemed to be enjoying the storm, enjoying the clean ferocity of it.
From time to time, crashing sounds came from the main deck. Lashings were coming free and boats and rigging were giving way to crash through the darkness, reducing all to wet splinters in their path.
No sea is rougher or blacker or more spiteful than the Caribbean in a storm. The mother of hurricanes was fast building up the velocity of wind and the height of waves. Even now large vessels were going ashore in the hammered ports of the Antilles.
Sky and water met in the whirling embrace of blackness. Rain blotted out any light or gleam which remained. Combers raced across the decks, smashing into the masts and cabins and roaring back through the
and into the sea.
The velocity of the wind had increased until it was impossible to hear anything below a shout. The Diesels throbbed, pounding against the waves.
Spar, aware though he was of their danger, grinned to himself. He whistled down the speaking tube to the engine room and when answer came back, he said, “Half speed.”
“It’s about time,” cried the harried engineer.
Spar looked back to the wing of the bridge. Peg Mannering still stood there, leaning against the rail, drenched with water and whipped by the wind. Spar grinned again and looked back to the wild sea.
had not realized how late it had become. But dawn was nothing more than a graying of the sky and water, and the twilight of day only gave the storm greater strength.
rolled and bucked and shuddered in the sea, plunging ahead a foot for every
up and down. Peg Mannering had wearied and Spar had sent her into his cabin.
Soon the black of former acquaintance came on the bridge, overbearing and disdainful, holding on to the
“Is the ship all right?” said Chacktar.
Spar stared at the scornful face. “Yes, go back and tell them so.”
“Remember, you saw Tom Perry kill those men. Otherwise, convict, back you go.”
Spar stepped very close to the black. “The title is Captain, if you please.”
Chacktar laughed. “Ho, ho, the convict feels his
Spar tried to hold his temper in with but small success. Suddenly, at the sight of the disdainful black face, his control snapped. “Metal, hell! You’re going to feel something else!”
He started for Chacktar, but the black dodged nimbly and scurried down the ladder. Spar had no time to calm himself before young Tom Perry, weaving back and forth up the lunging ladder, approached the bridge.
Tom Perry, very drunk but wholly in possession of his strength, grabbed hold of Spar’s slicker. “See here, fellow. See here. You can’t do that!”
“Can’t do what?”
“Can’t stay out here. We’ll all drown. You’ve got to make land, hear me? I order you to make land right away. Any old land. Hear me?”
“I’m proceeding to New York, under your father’s orders.”
“No, no, to hell with my father. He don’t care what happens to me. No, he don’t care about nothing. He thinks in dollar marks, he does. Listen here, you captain, you make land right away.”
“Sorry,” said Spar, firmly.
“What’s this? What’s this? You disobey my orders? Say, I’ll have you fired for this. Fired right away.”
Spar pried the fingers off his slicker and pushed Tom back against the rail. “Get as drunk as you want, but let me take care of this ship.”
“Oh, so it’s insubordination, huh? You’re gonna get tough, huh? Chacktar! Chacktar! Come up here!”
Chacktar appeared at the head of the ladder. Behind him, Spar could see Folston and Peg Mannering. The three came up to the deck.
Chacktar said, “What do you try to do, Captain? Kill us?”
A fourth person, Felice Bereau, came up and approached Spar with an unsteady walk, holding fast to the rail. “Oh, Captain, can’t you do something about this? We’ll all drown!” She fixed a ravishing glance upon Spar and moved a little closer, intimately. “You wouldn’t want poor Felice to drown, would you?”
“What makes you think we’ll drown?” Spar asked them.
They all looked at Folston who colored a little. Perry said, “He knows more about the sea than you do, Captain. He says we’re rolling too much. He says we’ll go under if we don’t make for Hurricane Hill.”
“I believe we’re in that vicinity,” said Folston.
“Is there any real danger?” said Peg Mannering.
Spar looked them over. “A brave lot you are. A brave lot. Yes, we’re near Hurricane Hill, but if you think I’m a big enough fool to
. there, you’re all mad.”
“But what’s wrong with it?” asked Peg Mannering.
with it?” shouted Spar. “Everything is wrong with it. That’s the place all these hurricanes start. There’s been more ships sunk off that island than you can count and more men drowned.”
“Sailor’s superstition,” mocked Folston.
“Yes, superstition, maybe, but they say when the wind is blowing you can hear the drowned men screaming for help in the sea. Superstition, perhaps, but the place has more legends about it than Greece. There are sailors who tell you that people live on the place, people who prey on the unfortunate of the sea. They have found bodies, mangled with knives, floating off the beach. What do you think of that?”
“Silly,” said Folston.
“Come on, you captain, put in there,” ordered Perry.
“Couldn’t we just go into the lee?” said Felice Bereau. “I believe it’s the lee, isn’t it, Captain?”
“For God’s sake, miss,” said Spar, “hang on to the rail if your knees are shaking so you can’t stand.” And he pried her away from him.
She glared and her nostrils quivered. She went back to stand beside Perry who instantly patted his own chest.
“Lean here, Felice, old kid. I’ll protect you.”
Chacktar edged away and retreated down the ladder. Spar turned his back on the group and strode into the opposite wing.
“You’re fired!” yelled Perry.
Spar paid him no attention whatever and Perry, angry at being ignored, came along the rail, following Spar, one hand in his pocket.
“You’re fired!” repeated Perry.
“All right,” cried Spar, exasperated, “I’m fired. And you can all go down to hell, for all of me.”
Perry aimed an ill-timed swing at Spar’s jaw and Spar, acting instinctively, ducked and returned the blow. Perry stumbled back, carried by the abrupt roll of the ship, and slid moaning into the starboard wing. Felice Bereau was instantly beside him, bending over him, glaring at Spar like a cornered leopard.
Peg Mannering stepped back, avoiding Perry. Folston smiled.
keeled again, more sharply than before, and something in the decks and the feel of the ship told Spar that something was wrong.
He went instantly to the tubes and whistled down. He received no response. He blew again. Still no answer.
The black mate came up and Spar said, “Stay here until I come back.”
Spar clattered down the ladder and made his way to the engine room hatch. He went through and stared down at the brightly lighted interior, barred and laced with the ladders.
Folston was at his side, curiously looking down.
Two oilers were bending over a crumpled body on the floor plates. Spar went on down and an instant later recognized the engineer.
The man’s skull was crushed and his staring eyes were glazed. Spar examined the wound with swift fingers.
“Must have fallen,” said Folston, unconcerned.
“Fallen, hell. He’s been smashed with a pistol butt. Here, you fellows, what happened?”
The oilers shook their woolly heads. One of them said, “I don’t know. All of a sudden the starboard
went blooey and then we found Mister Scott lying here like this.”
“Take him up to his cabin,” said Spar. “We’ll have to bury him at sea. Are you certain the reduction gear is broken?”
“Yes, sir, we’ve only got the port engine left, and with this blow . . .”
“Better take my advice,” said Folston. “Put into Hurricane Hill and ride this out in the lee.”
“Your advice?” said Spar. “So that’s where the poor fools got it, eh?”
He went back up to the deck. Chacktar was there with a ready question. Spar pushed by and went to the bridge.
Peg Mannering was there, waiting for him.
“The engineer’s been murdered,” said Spar, tersely. “We’ve got to put into Hurricane Hill. We can’t ride this with only one engine. And God help me, Miss Mannering, I know that place and the reputation it has.”
“What do you mean?”
“Nothing,” said Spar, not wishing to frighten her. “Nothing.”
With a bleak frown he gave the orders to the helm and the yacht went off her course, heading in toward an island where shipwreck was ordinary and where men died without knowing why, and where no survivors were ever found.
But better the chance, than drowning at sea.
And the storm held them heavily back, as though determined not to release them from its grasp.